May is mental health awareness month. This is pretty important to me; for a long time, I have dealt with anxiety as well as had people close to me really struggle with mental health. It’s not a thing I take lightly, and with all of us in a more isolated setting, this could not be a more important topic to talk about. We are all built for relationship, so, the physical distancing that is needing to happen has been a struggle for many people. I’ve seen way too many folks spending all their time on Facebook and getting sucked in to this “doomer” mindset. We’re scared, we’re in the midst of something that has never happened in our lifetimes, and we are putting our faith in all the wrong places.
I think it’s important to talk about mental health. For a long time, mental health had a stigma around it, meaning that whenever it was brought up is was hushed or just treated like something you needed to just “get over.” What has happened now though, is that these stigmas are starting to break, which is a good thing. We need to be okay to talk about our struggles and in turn, get help for them. That’s what we’ll be looking at today, ways to focus your heart. Too often we forget to take care of ourselves, and I mean that from a mental perspective. You might be dealing with some struggles, old heartache, or maybe you don’t even know where these “low” feelings are coming from. It’s easy to try and brush it aside or pretend like it’s not real, but it is real. Our mental wellbeing is important, thought we don’t address it in our lives. This is coming from someone who has heavy anxiety. I’ve written about my battle before in a post I called, “My Battle with Anxiety.” That will give you some context and help you if you are dealing with this same battle, but today I want to talk about something incredibly important, addressing the problem in order to be free.
One of the funniest parts about living in Orlando and working for Disney, is the fact that in the parks it is now full on fall. My dear Danielle and I were chuckling at the fact that the Jack-o-Lanterns are out and the fall leaves are on display, in 90 plus degree Florida weather. I love the changing of the seasons, it always comes just at the right moment. It makes me think about life, and I feel like we all go through seasons. Some seasons are better than others, think about some of your favorite times of year. I love the crisp fall air and the general color of orange all around. There’s just something about watching a spooky cartoon and eating candy that makes me jump back to memories in my mind. We go through great moments in our lives, moments that we cherish and remember forever. Then, there are the seasons of hardship. While I don’t hate summer, I think about the time I was burned terribly during a summer camping trip with the Boy Scouts. I always shudder slightly when I prepare to go to the beach in summer, because of the pain that happened in the past.
The interesting thing that I’ve noticed about seasons, is that in both the positive and negative moments, good comes from both.
I’ve always loved movies about high school. There’s just something funny about them, it’s always melodramatic and filled with this one idea. The senior year scenario where the characters all have to make choose who they want to be for the rest of their lives. It’s a great set up for a movie, but when it comes to real life, this shouldn’t be our mindset. For most of us, we’ve graduated high school and most likely college. The truth is, life for most of us has moved beyond that as well. That’s a good thing. I’ve found that in almost every stage of life, people love to ask you the question of, “what’s next?” For me, I love to have a plan. I like knowing what’s next and having an idea of where I’m headed.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. God often doesn’t work like that.
We are now about two weeks into the month of May, and it’s mental! May is mental health awareness month, shining a light on mental health and allowing for those who haven’t opened up a chance to know that there is always hope. That’s why I love this month. For a long time, especially in the Christian community, mental health hasn’t been talked about. Not only has it not really been talked about, but many times it has been seen as a weakness, something that makes you less than those around you. It’s tragic because we have lived and treated others in this lie that Satan has convinced us of. We get in the mindset that we have to be perfect, that in order to follow Christ, we have to have no flaws. The truth is, if we believe this, we will live our lives believing that we are never enough, but the power of the gospel is that Jesus says all we need is to walk with him. Jesus doesn’t want perfect people, because he knows people aren’t perfect. All Jesus asks of us is to follow him, and he’ll help us sort out the rest.
The same is true with mental health.
Just like every other part of our lives, we need to trust in Jesus. Trust in our creator who designed us with a purpose and loved us so much he sent his son to die on a cross and take our sins, and then raise again to defeat death.
Fear is just the worst. I’m not talking about the type of fear that comes over us when we watch a scary movie or hear a noise in the night, I’m talking about that great and powerful, “unknown.” Think about it, we are all scared by what we don’t know. Ever been at a party and you knew no one? It’s the pit in your stomach when you were in a class and the teacher said to choose a partner, but you have never spoken to a soul in that room. You kinda just have to go with the guy next to you, but if you have the luck like I do, you get partnered with the guy who blows his cigarette smoke into his backpack. That’s a true story by the way. I have never been more speechless than that moment. Anyways, fear of the unknown is extremely unsettling. It’s the reason why you rarely see the shark in Jaws, the picture you create in your mind will always be scarier than when you actually come face to face with it (though sharks are all kinda freaky to me). I recently dealt with this amped up fear of the unknown this past week, and came face to face with some heavy lies.
I want to talk about fear today, but more accurately, how fear truly stinks.
This past weekend, my wife and I decided to go on a road trip. In December, we went to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon, and we had the idea to go back. You see, they had a Festival of the Arts event at Epcot, and we were bummed we might miss it. My wife then said, why don’t we go? So, we decided to pick a weekend and drive down to Florida. It’s always awesome to go on a road trip, you have lots of time laughing and goofing off in the car. Singing songs at the top of your lungs (whether you know the words or not), having those moments of needing to pee and not seeing a rest stop anywhere, and munching on whatever food you brought (shout out to peanut butter sandwiches). Time feels slow and fast all at the same time, and it’s a great experience. There are often moments where you have to fill up on gas, sometimes you are stretched to see how long you can go without stopping or praying a gas station will be there soon, either way, you gotta fill up. If you don’t, you could end up getting stuck.
What’s funny is we understand this idea on a road trip, but when it comes to our heart, we run it into the ground.
I love powerful storytelling. I’m a big fan of books and movies because of the stories they can tell. I love stories, but I also really love true stories. Not so much history, but stories of people who have overcome and made something incredible. I’ve recently been reading a lot more, and it’s so interesting to see people’s stories and how they choose to press on even when things get tough. That’s one of the best parts about the bible for me. In Christian culture, people seem to have this idea of being perfect or fitting a standard, but that’s simply not true. Last week I wrote about how God designed each of us, but sometimes it can feel like we aren’t living up to how we were designed. I feel this way a lot, you feel like you have been made for a purpose, but that I don’t add up to what I’ve been called to. I look at my brokenness and don’t see how I can be used. The fear of rejection or that I’m not good enough give me anxiety and I question how God can use me. In these moments, I have to be reminded of true stories in scripture. One of my favorite parts in the bible, is found in the book of Hebrews. Written by an unknown author (so I’ll use she/her pronouns), she writes a section known as the “by faith” section. In this part she describes people in the old testament that chose to live by faith and listen to God. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit or the sacrifice of Jesus, they simply did what they were asked. The crazy part is, each of these people she writes about are broken people. They all had their individual struggles and dealt with crazy situations, but in all of it, one thing remains true of them and remains true for you.
Despite our brokenness, God says that we are loved.
Isn’t it funny how things we love, aren’t always the best thing for us to be doing? Let me be really honest with you or a second. I love candy. I especially love gummy bears and Sour Patch Kids. For our wedding registry, I thought it would be really funny if we put our favorite candy on it to see if people would buy us some. At our shower, I opened up the best gift ever, two five-pound bags of Sour Patch Kids. I was in heaven, and I had no self-control. I at the majority of one of the bags in one night, in one sitting. I immediately regretted this later on when my stomach had this tight feeling to it. Now, why did I bring up this moment? I shared this because many of us suffer from a lack of controlling things in our lives. This can be like the things we eat, the things we watch, our emotions; anything that can alter the way we act. The way we act and respond to others, generally reflects the attitude of our heart; our identity. This all might not make sense, or connect right away, but that’s one of my favorite ways to write. Big concepts that don’t seem to fit, funneled together to help us learn more about ourselves. In this season of resolutions and new habits, combined with my reading through Gideon, I want to talk about how to kill the masters of your life. I want to talk about how to kill what’s killing you.
October is my favorite. It’s a season for jackets, pumpkins, and spooky movies. Some people have negatively questioned my love of spooky things, but these spooky things have helped me cope with a lot of fear I had as a kid. We often give fear too much power, and Christians are especially guilty of this. In an attempt to turn away from sin, we decided to fear the “other,” choosing to stick to ourselves in our comfort zones; we have begun to fear the people that need to hear our message the most. We see people that are different, and we fear them, we fear that their influence will be “bad” for us, so we just avoid them all together. This is a mindset we have to fight because we are called to “fear not.” Joshua in the bible faced bigger things than many of us will, and God told him over and over to have no fear, to trust God and he would give him victory over his fear. This month is coming to an end, and I have been talking about how the enemy uses fear to try and bring us down. I like to fight back fear, because to fight means that we are active, and we must actively combat fear.